College volleyball: UMD takes center stage at Amsoil
COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL / UMD 3, BEMIDJI STATE 0 Minnesota Duluth volleyball players know how rankings work, so when coach Jim Boos and Co. saw that preseason No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul and No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State both lost in the first week, th...
COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL / UMD 3, BEMIDJI STATE 0
Minnesota Duluth volleyball players know how rankings work, so when coach Jim Boos and Co. saw that preseason No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul and No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State both lost in the first week, the Bulldogs would slide to No. 1, bringing some unwanted attention from opponents.
"We were like, 'Oh, man,' " Boos said.
UMD's spot atop the poll was short-lived, however, as the Bulldogs dropped two matches on Friday at the Wildcat Open on Friday in Marquette, Mich.
Sixth-ranked UMD has come back to win three straight, including Thursday's 25-19, 25-14, 25-14 victory over Bemidji State in its NSIC opener before 1,289 at Amsoil Arena in the first volleyball match played at the home of Bulldogs hockey.
While the blue court was the same as the one UMD has been practicing on at the Duluth Indoor Sports Center, Thursday's contest definitely had a different vibe to it, being played in an arena that can hold more than 8,000 spectators for concerts and nearly 7,000 for hockey games.
"It's big," UMD senior Sarah Kelly said. "That's probably the only time I'll play in anything like that, so it was a fun experience. You felt small because of how big it is, but we knew there were a lot of fans out there. It was cool to play in that environment. Everyone is looking down on you almost, so that was a little more nerve-wracking."
UMD will hold its first practice at newly renovated Romano Gym today, with the Bulldogs' first match at their home court Sept. 21 against Minnesota State-Moorhead.
"We're super fired up about it," Boos said. "I'm hoping it's going to energize us and get us refocused on becoming more disciplined and efficient."
Kelly had 12 kills, seven digs and four ace serves to lead the Bulldogs (7-2 overall, 1-0 NSIC), while Makenzie Morgen added nine kills and 12 digs. Keena Seiffert and Kate Berg added 16 digs apiece, while Emily Torve spearheaded the offense with 39 set assists.
Boos described the Bulldogs' season as "disjointed," and the same could used to describe this match.
UMD built an 18-10 lead in the first set but had a hard time putting away the Beavers (3-6, 0-1), who have lost five straight and haven't beaten the Bulldogs since 1998, a span of 32 straight matches.
Kelly said UMD's inconsistency is understandable given the Bulldogs have been volleyball nomads so far this season, first playing at St. Scholastica before moving to the DISC.
"Hopefully we'll get back on track moving into our home gym," she said. "Everything has been so jumbled. We've had people coming to practice late and others leaving early since we have a 15-minute commute."
Kelly said this year's team is the most talented top to bottom that she has been on in her four season with the Bulldogs. Boos is trying to figure out which combination is best, but subbing players in and out can disrupt the flow and cohesiveness.
"There's so much talent on this team he never knows who to play, because the backup is just as good as the starter on any given night," Kelly said.
Anna Averkamp had 10 kills to lead Bemidji State.
Beavers coach Kevin Ulmer said Boos told him over the summer about Thursday's contest, which also included a military tribute, and Ulmer was all for it.
"I don't know if it's that much different," Ulmer said. "It's still the same court, but it's a cool venue. We loved it. Why wouldn't you want to play here? It's great."
UMD athletic director Josh Berlo said if Thursday's match went well he would like to have one every year at Amsoil Arena.
Boos certainly seems open to that, but for now, he is simply focused on trying to help his team get better. And who knows? Maybe a return to No. 1.
"The No. 1 ranking is really not something we want until the end of the year," he said.